“The United States expects Islamic State to use crude chemical weapons as it tries to repel an Iraqi-led offensive on the city of Mosul, U.S. officials say, although adding that the group’s technical ability to develop such weapons is highly limited. U.S. forces have begun to regularly collect shell fragments to test for possible chemical agents, given Islamic State’s use of mustard agent in the months before Monday’s launch of the Mosul offensive, one official said. In a previously undisclosed incident, U.S. forces confirmed the presence of a sulfur mustard agent on Islamic State munition fragments on Oct. 5, a second official said. The Islamic State had targeted local forces, not U.S. or coalition troops”.
Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category
An article in the Hill argues that Trump’s own base are beginning to reject him, “When Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told GOP nominee Donald Trump from the podium of the Democratic National Convention in July that “women are gonna be the reason you’re not elected to be president,” she probably didn’t forsee a sinking ship of this magnitude. Trump’s terrible October began Oct. 7, when an 11-year-old video from “Access Hollywood” came to light. In it, Trump describes his past sexual assaults of women: “I don’t even wait.” his was followed by a line of women who have come forward, describing events where, they claim, Trump actually sexually assaulted them (Trump denies these stories are true). New York magazine lists over 20 allegations of Trump’s mistreatment of women that have come out in the past month. And the list grows”.
The report goes on to note how “all of that the three public debates where the public consensus seems to be that Clinton bested Trump, three out of three. October was a terrible month for candidate Trump among women, one might think. Few were shocked when an ABC/Washington Post poll, taken between Oct. 20 and Oct. 22 by Langer Research Associates, was released, trumpeting a headline that Clinton was now in advance of Trump by 12 percentage points nationally among likely voters. That’s what the poll — a snapshot in time — says. But look at the movie, see where the action is, and a different picture emerges”.
It adds “Comparing two ABC/Washington Post polls taken a month apart, Trump’s disaster of October didn’t occur among women, the majority of whom already supported Clinton. Trump’s disaster occurred among his base: men. In the first poll taken Sept. 19-22 — before the “Access Hollywood” video came out — Trump was favoured over Clinton by 19 points among all men, a huge advantage for Trump, which reflects the historical advantage Republicans have had with men in presidential elections. But by the late October poll, the results had flipped. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton now leads Trump by 3 points in the same group — a swing of 22 points — roughly equivalent to one in five men ending their support for Trump during the past month. That’s a huge swing. One might expect that there is a similarly large swing among women; perhaps larger. But there isn’t. In September, women favored Clinton over Trump by 19 points; come October, that advantage did not measurably increase. A mere 1 point changed — It’s now 20 points — minuscule in comparison to the 22-point swing among men”.
It explains that “The impact was greatest among white men without a college degree. These men are supposed to be Trump’s base — and indeed, they still are the largest single demographic that supports Trump, according to the October poll. But comparing the September and October polls, one sees Trump’s base is abandoning him. In September, Trump enjoyed being 59-point favourite over Clinton among this demographic, but by October, this lead had shrunk to only 31 points — a change equivalent to Trump losing support of one in four white blue-collar men in October. That’s an abandonment. That’s an evaporation”.
It describes how “There can be more than one explanation for this change. First, it could be that men are abandoning the Trump ticket, and switching to Clinton in droves. A second possibility lies in that “likely voter” qualifier — it could be that men are simply abandoning Trump; and even if they are not pledging themselves to vote for Clinton in November, they’ve removed themselves from among likely voters, thus changing the outcome. There’s a third possibility: The men are lying to the pollsters. The polls were taken by phone, so one might expect the poll subjects were at home, or at work, perhaps in the presence of their spouse. In early October, an article in The Week describes that 12 percent more wives are voting for Clinton than thought by their male spouses. Likewise, 8 percent more husbands are voting for Trump than thought by their female spouses. Spouses are deceiving each other, perhaps to keep the peace at home”.
It ends “And, so, in the wake of Trump’s awful behaviour coming to light, more blue-collar men might be finding it difficult to assert that they’re voting for Trump while they’re on the phone with a pollster with their wife sitting nearby, even if their intention for the privacy of the ballot box is different. We won’t know for certain until a poll that isolates the subjects, or until Election Day. But if we accept these polls for what they say, the conclusion is clear: There has been an enormous swing from Trump to Clinton among men in the past month, a swing largely due to an evaporation among Trump’s base: white men with no degree. And while white women have also moved from Trump toward Clinton, the migration has been smaller in comparison. White blue-collar men have been, and continue to be, Trump’s base. But, his base has abandoned him in October in such numbers that, if he weren’t so loudly denigrating her, Trump might hear the fat lady sing”.
“The U.N. humanitarian aid agency suspended all convoys in Syria on Tuesday following deadly airstrikes on aid trucks the previous night that activists said killed at least 12 people, mostly truck drivers and Red Crescent workers. The attack plunged Syria’s U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire further into doubt. The Syrian military, just hours earlier, had declared the week-long truce had failed. The United States said it was prepared to extend the truce deal and Russia — after blaming rebels for the violations — suggested it could still be salvaged. In Geneva, spokesman Jens Laerke of OCHA said further aid delivery would hold pending a review of the security situation in Syria in the aftermath of the airstrike. Laerke called it “a very, very dark day… for humanitarians across the world.” The U.N. aid coordinator said the Syria government had granted needed authorizations in recent days to allow for aid convoys to proceed inside Syria. Humanitarian U.N. aid deliveries had stalled in recent weeks amid continued fighting, and the truce had not paved the way for expanded convoys as initially expected. It was not clear who was behind the attack late on Monday, which sent a red fireball into the sky in the dead of night over a rural area in Aleppo province. Both Syrian and Russian aircraft operate over Syria, as well as the U.S.-led coalition that is targeting the Islamic State group.
An article from the Wall Street Journal discusses Church finances, “Late last year, Cardinal George Pell, the pope’s finance chief, hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a comprehensive audit of the Vatican’s finances. On a mandate from Pope Francis to clarify the city-state’s muddled accounts, the newly powerful cardinal had been assessing and tweaking the system; already he had found a total of €1.4 billion “tucked away” off the books. Cardinal Pell wanted PwC to check that the 136 Vatican departments—each of which used its own, often loose accounting standards—were following guidelines aimed at imposing budgetary discipline. His task was like pushing against the ancient stone walls of a basilica. Other officials, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, known as the pope’s prime minister, let him know the audit wouldn’t fly. In June, the Vatican announced it had been scrapped, and soon many of Cardinal Pell’s wide-ranging powers were handed to others”.
The article adds that “It was a setback for the financial overhaul, a central part of a broader revamp of the Catholic Church’s central bureaucracy, the Roman Curia, which Francis made a centerpiece of his pontificate. It was also a sign that the Vatican’s established interests have gained the pope’s support, just three years after his election as a historic, New World outsider. Cardinal Pell, a blunt speaker, had used a vaguely worded papal mandate to reach for broad powers. He has no plans to back down. “My job is to keep pushing,” Cardinal Pell, 75 years old, said in an interview in June. “The goal is that the Vatican will be recognized inside and outside the church around the world as somebody who handles their finances properly and appropriately.” Accounting at the Vatican has never followed unified policies. Annual reports aren’t released, different departments use different accounting principles, data are inconsistent and not comparable. Before Cardinal Pell’s appointment, a panel of cardinals charged with economic oversight met just twice a year. Budgets didn’t exist, and expenditures weren’t itemized”.
The piece goes on to mention “When cardinals elected Pope Francis in March 2013, they gave him a mandate to revamp the Curia. The resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI , had occurred under a cloud of allegations at the Vatican relating to cronyism, inefficiency and corruption. Complaints surfaced about €550,000 spent for a manger scene in St. Peter’s Square. Later, concern rose about the lack of oversight of hundreds of thousands of euros collected by advocates for potential saints from donors. Pope Francis moved quickly. In early 2014, he established a new Secretariat for the Economy and named Cardinal Pell to run it. In a two-page document he seemed to hand over sweeping powers, saying the cardinal had authority over “administrative and financial structures” and his reach extended “to all that in whatsoever manner” concerned economic activity, including procurement and hiring. The cardinal would report directly to the pope. In the cardinal, the pontiff found a rare example of a high-ranking prelate with media savvy, financial experience and a bold personality”.
It adds “With his 6’3” frame, the Oxford-educated cardinal cuts an imposing figure. In his youth, he played Australian rules football in the position of ruckman, a role akin to that of a center in basketball. Cardinal Pell is “a no-nonsense, realistic, straight-talking Australian,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told CBS This Morning soon after the appointment. “He’ll get things done.” In Australia, he oversaw the merger of eight far-flung colleges into a national Catholic university. As archbishop of Sydney, he streamlined procurement procedures in the archdiocese, which had assets of about US$770 million in 2013 and a staff of 11,000. He raised the return on investments in the church’s real-estate holdings by charging market rents, helping triple the archdiocese’s budget, according to Danny Casey, the archdiocese’s business manager under Cardinal Pell and now a close aide at the Vatican. The cardinal was also a member of a panel of cardinals advising Pope Benedict on economic affairs”.
Naturally attacks come against Pell, “Critics point to what they call an autocratic streak. During his tenure in Australia, the entire staff charged with spiritual instruction at an archdiocesan seminary resigned to protest his plans to impose a regular schedule of prayers and Mass attendance on students. Australian police are investigating Cardinal Pell over accusations that he sexually abused minors several decades ago, and Australian victims’ advocates have claimed that he failed to report suspected abuse by clerics during the 1970s and 1980s. In July he said he “emphatically and unequivocally rejects any allegations of sexual abuse about him.” He has also said that the church has made “enormous mistakes” in handling sex abuse and that he regrets not having done more to pursue certain allegations about others as a young priest, but denies any wrongdoing. With the new assignment Cardinal Pell got off the mark quickly. At a July 2014 press conference, he presented himself as the financial counterpart to the Secretary of State, who had previously been unchallenged as the pope’s No. 2 official. Press accounts hailed the Australian as the Vatican’s financial “czar.” “Our ambition is to become something of a model of financial management rather than a cause for occasional scandal,” he said at the time. The “Vatican” refers to both the Holy See—which includes the central administration of the world-wide Catholic Church and related institutions serving the pope—and Vatican City State, the sovereign territory owned by the church inside Italy, where the pope resides”.
It goes on to mention that “Revenues come largely from proceeds from the Vatican Museums, its real-estate holdings, an investment portfolio and shops selling valuable tax-free products such as gasoline to Vatican employees. Dioceses around the world also send millions of dollars annually to the Vatican’s coffers. And the Vatican Bank, an independent body that is designed to provide financial services to the Catholic Church world-wide, also adds a varying amount of funds; it provided €50 million in 2014. Despite such assets, the Holy See has long run a deficit: €26 million in 2014, the Vatican said, and an estimated €35 million or more for last year, according to Cardinal Pell. Attempts in recent years to generate more revenue—the Vatican Museums raised visitor flow by 20% over the past three years—haven’t stanched red ink. Cutting costs, including layoffs, is difficult, because of the traditional Italian resistance to job cuts and the pope’s concern over the “social ill” of unemployment. Cardinal Pell and his team set out to close the deficit “so that an increasing amount of money can be used to help the strugglers and the poor,” he said in The Wall Street Journal interview. The cardinal hired consultants from firms such as McKinsey & Co. to do a review of assets. That exercise turned up €1.4 billion that was “not on the balance sheet,” recalled the cardinal. The cardinal attributed the discrepancies to haphazard accounting and ad hoc policies. “I’m not saying it was being mismanaged or anything. It just was there for a rainy day,” Cardinal Pell said. His team once received a call from the head of one Vatican office who had tens of millions in charitable funds and wasn’t sure how to account for them, he said”.
The writer goes on to note how Pell, “spotted a rich new source of revenue that could help close the deficit. The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, known as APSA, managed most of the Vatican’s huge real-estate portfolio, valued at €1 billion or more, including thousands of commercial spaces and apartments in Rome. Cardinal Pell said the management wasn’t satisfactory. Among the criticisms, APSA hadn’t kept up the properties or collected back rent on the real estate held by the administration of St. Peter’s Basilica, according to a person familiar with the situation. As a result, the Basilica suffered a deficit of several hundred thousand euros last year. That shortfall meant it couldn’t pay the stipends for new canons—the retired prelates who celebrate Mass there—for the next two years. A Vatican official said many properties can’t be rented out at market rates because they would be prohibitively expensive to restore. The pope gave Cardinal Pell control of the properties managed by APSA in July 2014, along with its administrative responsibilities for procurement, payment of bills and payroll”.
He points out that “APSA also controlled much of the Vatican’s financial portfolio, a power it retained. Cardinal Pell started exploring ways to reorganize the Vatican’s financial investments. One idea he pursued was to outsource them to professional money managers in a new Luxembourg-based entity. The real-estate move and plans for the investments raised hackles at APSA and other offices. APSA’s president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, has developed a strong relationship with Francis, who over time has become more connected to insiders at the Vatican. The two frequently eat together in the dining hall at the Vatican guesthouse, where the pope lives. Cardinal Calcagno declined to comment on Cardinal Pell’s remarks about APSA, saying only that he was “disconcerted” by the statements. The Secretary of State also controlled extensive investments, and the powers of Cardinal Parolin over hiring and spending were under threat”.
It notes worryingly that “Then the pope started paring Cardinal Pell’s powers. In a series of moves over about 18 months, Francis stripped Cardinal Pell of control over APSA’s real-estate holdings. He declined to approve his recommendations to reorganize the management of the financial portfolio. He wrote and made public a pointed letter making clear that all hiring and transfer of personnel required the approval of the office of Cardinal Parolin. The audit was scrapped, and in July, he took away most of the management functions—for payroll, payment and procurement services—and restored them to APSA. “When a new administrative body is created, it always takes a while until it fits into the broader organization,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke. “We shouldn’t be distracted by the noise.” Some Vatican officials said they believe Cardinal Pell’s free-market ethos has been unwelcome in the Curia, particularly under a pope who has excoriated the free-market system and warned that some financial practices can lead to corruption”.
The journalist writes that “Cardinal Pell attributed some of his setbacks to “people wanting to retain their turf, their traditional role” particularly at APSA and the Secretariat of State. “Some people don’t like change, some people don’t like a diminished authority,” he said. “And there’s always a hypothetical possibility that you’ve got some people who have something to hide.” Officials at APSA and the Secretariat of State declined to comment on the cardinal’s comments. So far, the Secretariat of the Economy has accomplished little of what it set out to do. “A lot of people in the Vatican are wondering why we needed to spend two years and a lot of money on high-powered consultants just to come back to square one, with Cardinal Pell’s office basically a beefed-up comptroller’s office,” said Robert Mickens, editor in chief of Global Pulse, a magazine that covers the Vatican. Cardinal Pell cited success in identifying the off-the-book assets, and said that the Vatican is now committed to international public sector accounting standards, even if they haven’t been implemented everywhere, saying “the gains are irreversible.” “Once you let the light in, it’s impossible to return to a situation where you’ve had large elements of the truth buried,” he said”.
“Bangladesh police say a top gay rights activist and editor at the country’s only LGBT magazine is one of two people who have been hacked to death. The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy. Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat. Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups. The two men were murdered two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility – but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country.
Yesterday Pope Francis released Amoris Laetitia, his long awaited Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
John Allen writes that “One of the standard talks I’ve given on the Catholic lecture circuit for years now focuses on the cultural gap between the Vatican and Main Street USA. Only semi-jokingly, I sometimes title it “Rome is from Mars, America from Venus,” because it does often seem they’re on two different planets. One area where the cultural gap is especially apparent is contrasting attitudes towards law. For Americans, and perhaps Anglo-Saxons generally, law is a lowest common denominator of civic morality. It’s what we expect everyone to do all the time, and if a law is being widely disobeyed, for us that’s a crisis – we either want to repeal the law or launch a crackdown, but we can’t have people making exceptions on the fly”.
Allen goes on to notes “For Mediterranean cultures, which still shape the thought-world of the Vatican to a significant degree, law is instead more akin to an ideal. It describes a moral aspiration, but realistically it’s understood that many people much of the time will fall short. (If you don’t believe it, come to Italy sometime and watch how the locals approach traffic laws!) A frustration I’ve long experienced as an American journalist covering the Vatican is that when the pope or some Vatican department issues a new law, it often comes off as terribly draconian and harsh in media coverage and public discussion. It’s difficult to explain that always encoded into the legislation is the common-sense expectation that bishops and pastors will use good judgment in applying it in ways that reflect their local circumstances”.
Allen makes the point that Rome “never says that second part explicitly – perhaps out of fear that it will come off as encouraging hypocrisy, rather than presuming a good-faith effort to live up to the value the law expresses. They don’t usually say it, that is, until now. One striking point about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ sweeping new apostolic exhortation on the family, which was released in a Vatican news conference on Friday, is that it lifts up this long-standing Catholic capacity for flexibility and nuance in pastoral practice, and sets it squarely alongside the law in full public view”.
The report goes on “Although the 264-page text treats a staggering variety of topics, public interest initially will focus on what Francis says in chapter eight about Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, since that was the lighting rod issue in two contentious Synods of Bishops in 2014 and again in 2015. In a nutshell, the pope neither creates any new law on the issue nor abrogates any existing one. What he does do, however, is place great stress on the pastoral practice of applying the law, insisting that pastors must engage in a careful process of “discernment” with regard to individual cases, which are not all alike, and help people reach decisions in conscience about the fashion in which the law applies to their circumstances. The “money quote” on this score comes in one of Francis’ footnotes (number 336, to be exact), in which the pontiff says, “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline.” In effect, what he’s saying is that there may be cases in which a given divorced and remarried Catholic, after talking things out with a priest, could be justified in reaching the decision that they don’t carry the guilt that should exclude them from the sacraments, including Holy Communion. In truth, that may not change very much in terms of in-the-trenches experience in the Church”.
Interestingly Allen makes the point that “For one thing, that sort of pastoral adaptation, sometimes referred to as an “internal forum” solution, is already happening. In many parishes, you can find divorced and remarried Catholics who come forward for communion, and many pastors have either quietly encouraged them to do so or, at least, never discouraged them, choosing to respect whatever decision they’ve made in conscience. For another, the language in Amoris Laetitia on the Communion question is sufficiently elastic that both sides in the debate can take consolation, meaning that those pastors and bishops inclined to a stricter reading of Church law probably won’t feel compelled to revise their thinking, and neither will those given to a more flexible stance”.
Crucially he adds “Amoris Laetitia represents a breakthrough of no small consequence, because for once in a Vatican text, what got enunciated wasn’t simply the law but also the space for pastoral practice – which is where the Church’s long-underappreciated capacity for subtlety and compassion usually enters the picture. In other words, what Pope Francis has done is let the rest of the world in on one of the best-kept secrets about the Catholic Church: Yes, the Church has laws, and it takes them very seriously. But even more than law it has flesh-and-blood people, and it takes their circumstances and struggles seriously too. At one stage, Francis writes that the divorced and remarried can find themselves in situations “which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications, leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.” In reality, that’s been the spirit of things in the Church forever, to greater and lesser degrees depending on time and place. Still, it somehow feels new, and important, to hear a pope saying it out loud”.
A piece in Foreign Policy notes the UK’s “empire of tax evasion” after the release of the Panama Papers, “There is a temptation, when looking at the astonishing “Panama Papers,” to start by searching for politicians from your own country who are implicated. If you are British and approach the documents in this way, you’ll find slim pickings in the information released so far. Among the many thousands of names listed in the leak as possibly implicated in dodgy tax deals, there can’t be any appearance less surprising than that of Baroness Pamela Sharples, the widow of the former governor of Bermuda. That is, until you get to Lord Ashcroft — billionaire, Belizean national, and former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party — who would have been more remarkable if he had been absent. Then there’s Michael Mates, a former Tory MP, who stood down in 2010 amid another business scandal. And David Cameron’s late father, but again — hardly a surprise. To engage in this exercise, however, is to largely miss the point: not just the point of this astonishing leak, but the point of the whole United Kingdom. Because it’s hard not to look at the whole affair and see Britain right at the core of it. Or, at least, the British state, which one might argue is a very different entity”.
Crucially he writes that “There are, you see, a few important facts we are rarely told about the British state. Like, for instance, the fact that it governs more land in the Southern Hemisphere than the Northern; more penguins than any other; that there are 18 legislatures under Westminster’s auspices; and that these include the governments that oversee by far the most important network of tax havens in the world. With the City of London at its center, Britain’s network of refuges from taxes, regulations, and other pesky laws stretches first to the crown dependencies — the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey — and then into the 14 British overseas territories: places like the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands. From there, this web extends to places like Hong Kong, not under British rule since 1997 but, according to author Nicholas Shaxson, still feeding “billions in business to the City.””
The piece goes on to mention “The overseas territories — the last vestiges of the old empire — each have slightly different political structures, but all of them have a governor figure, appointed by the British government. All of them hand control of their foreign policy over to Westminster, and all of them depend on the motherland for military protection: The Falklands War is an obvious example, but let’s not forget that when Tony Blair famously claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capable of reaching British military targets within 45 minutes, he was referring not to London, but to Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Britain’s military bases and overseas territory on Cyprus. Akrotiri and Dhekelia still serve a strategic purpose, which make them the exception; most of the overseas territories have evolved into, essentially, parking lots for the wealth of the .01 percent. It’s worth pointing out that more than half of the companies listed in the leaked Mossack Fonseca documents are registered in the U.K. or its overseas territories — and they’re not based in Birmingham”.
He does argue that these territories are now part of a “financial empire”, he then correctly writes that “Want to understand how things on the edges got so bad? Look to the center: The City of London itself is even older than the empire. The 1.12 square miles that make up London’s financial center have had their own constitutional arrangements for a millennium. (As Shaxson notes, it’s said that William the Conqueror allowed the City to keep its “ancient rights” in 1067, as he trashed the rest of the country.) Today, those square miles are governed by the City of London Corporation, whose representatives are elected by the businesses that operate there, and they have an unelected representative who sits in Parliament, as well as their own police force, which has been remarkably unsuccessful in policing British banks. Because having its own built-in constitutional protections wasn’t sufficient, in 2010, the City paid for more than half of the Conservative Party’s election campaign, ensuring Cameron’s narrow victory (along with the aforementioned Lord Ashcroft) and that any significant new regulations on finance after the 2008 crisis would be politically impossible. To be sure, however, the Labour Party didn’t do anything to regulate the city in the previous 13 years when it was in power — winning it over with a famous “prawn cocktail offensive” that was a key part of its strategy to get into No. 10 Downing St. in the first place. All of this goes a little way to explaining why Britain has, for some time now, been considered the global capital for criminal money laundering among those in the know. Perhaps, with the release of the Panama Papers, the last sheen of respectability will finally be stripped away”.
He rightly notes the obsession with money and money laundering has led to pushing up the price of the pound making exports more unaffordable and driving up the cost of housing in the South East.
He ends “It was not so long ago — within my grandparents’ lifetime — that Britain was at the center of the biggest empire in human history. Many observers have considered the present day, understandably, as the post-imperial era, placing the end date of empire somewhere around the time Britain withdrew from South Asia. But perhaps we got ahead of ourselves — perhaps we’re only just now seeing the final stages, the physical empire replaced with a hidden financial one. And perhaps the Panama Papers will be seen as the moment when this empire, too, finally began to come unstuck”.
John Allen notes the recent interview given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “From the beginning, part of the narrative about Pope Francis has been that he’s sort of the anti-Pope Benedict XVI. Where Benedict was cold and aloof, Francis is seen as warm and populist; where Benedict was rigid and dogmatic, Francis is open and flexible; where Benedict was a man of the system, Francis is the antidote to it. One could go on crafting different ways of making the same point, but the idea is clear: Benedict and Francis are often set in opposition”.
Allen goes on to make the point “Francis himself has never fueled that narrative. Right after his election he took a helicopter out to Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence where his predecessor was staying, in order to embrace Benedict. The first encyclical issued by Francis, “Lumen Fidei” in June 2013, was largely based on a draft by Benedict, and Francis has invited Benedict to take part in several big events. We got another reminder that the real story is continuity, not rupture, with publication of a rare interview with Benedict after retirement on Wednesday, showcasing why he’s considered one of the best theological minds ever to occupy the Throne of Peter. The interview took place in October 2015, as part of a conference in Rome on the traditional Christian doctrine of justification by faith, and was conducted by the Rev. Jacques Servais, a Jesuit priest and theologian”.
Allen mentions that “To the extent there was a headline, it was Benedict’s assertion that there’s a “deep double crisis” facing the faith, as a result of the modern theological belief that people can be saved outside Christianity. While endorsing that belief, Benedict says it’s created a loss of motivation for missionary work and also sown doubt as to why one should put up with the demands of Christianity if you can get to Heaven without them. All that is certainly true, though it’s not the first time Benedict has made the point. Vis-á-vis Francis and Benedict, the most interesting portion of the interview comes in Benedict’s reflections on mercy”.
Allen summarises the interview noting that “In a nutshell, Benedict’s argument is that 500 years ago, when the Protestant Reformation happened, people took the existence of God for granted and assumed that God must be pretty ticked off at what a mess human beings have made of the world. Therefore, the driving question was how any human being could be saved. Martin Luther answered that question by saying it’s faith alone, while the Catholic Church insisted it’s faith plus good works, laying the basis for a great schism. Today, Benedict says, the terms of debate have been reversed. Modern women and men look around at all the violence, evil and corruption in the world, and ask what sense it makes to believe in a loving God. In other words, it’s no longer humanity that has to justify itself before God; it’s God who has to justify himself to humanity. Benedict believes God’s answer to that challenge is mercy”.
Allen continues, “According to Benedict, God cannot just make all the evil in the world disappear, because to do so would be to rob humanity of freedom. What God can do is to show mercy, thereby encouraging people to be merciful with one another. Mercy is at the heart of the Christian story, with God’s only son being willing to die amid “the suffering of love.” “Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, only with mercy do evil and violence end,” Benedict says. This brings us by a short route to Francis, since he’s all about mercy. It’s quite literally his motto as pope, which is a three-word Latin phrase, miserando atque eligendo, roughly meaning “choosing through the eyes of mercy.” His first Sunday homily as pope featured the claim that “the strongest message of the Lord is mercy,” and right now we’re in the middle of a special jubilee Holy Year called by Francis and devoted to the theme of mercy. The most famous sound bite associated with Francis, “Who am I to judge?”, is an expression of mercy, as is his attitude toward so many issues and constituencies – the poor, war, divorced and remarried Catholics, and so on. “Pope Francis is totally in agreement with this line,” Benedict says. “His pastoral practice is expressed in the fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy. It is mercy that moves us toward God, while justice frightens us before Him.” As Benedict sees it, he inherited the emphasis on mercy in recent papacies from St. John Paul II, laid out the intellectual case, and then handed it on to Francis, who’s taking the message to the streets”.
He concludes “At the level of Church politics that thumbs-up is fairly important, since some of Francis’ biggest critics come among the very theological conservatives who cherish Benedict. The bottom line, therefore, is that the narrative has the story wrong. The relationship between Benedict and Francis isn’t Ali vs. Frazier, or Coke vs. Pepsi; it’s more akin to Lennon and McCartney, or Rolls and Royce. Granted, Benedict and Francis have very different personalities, but then so did Martin and Lewis or Holmes and Watson, which didn’t stop them from making some magic together. This isn’t a rivalry, in other words, but actually one of the more intriguing partnerships in recent Christian history”.
A report examines the “strategy” of Ted Cruz (R-TX), “Tuesday evening’s GOP debate witnessed a sharp exchange between candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on U.S. policy toward dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa. Where Rubio restated his support for regime change in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, Cruz suggested leaving anti-Islamist dictators well alone. “We need to learn from history,” said Cruz, “If we topple Assad, the result will be ISIS will take over Syria, and it will worsen U.S. national security interests. And … instead of being a Woodrow Wilson democracy promoter … we ought to hunt down our enemies and kill ISIS rather than creating opportunities for ISIS to take control of new countries.” The discussion did nothing to resolve what has become a significant fault line over foreign policy within the Republican Party”.
The article continues “Indeed, this wasn’t the first time Cruz has outlined his vision of an “America First” strategy. His debate remarks echoed the foreign policy speech he delivered at the Heritage Foundation on Dec. 10 — a speech that offers the most complete portrait to date of Cruz’s strategic worldview and, as such, deserves more scrutiny than it has received. True to his style in domestic politics, Cruz’s foreign policy rhetoric seems at first glance to belong to a mainstream tradition, only to reveal political intentions that, in the context of American history, are more marginal and troubling”.
Yet it should be noted that many of the same criticisms were levelled at President Bush who was firmly within the mainstream of the US foreign policy tradition. After the election, in the unlikely event if there is a President Cruz, the actions of a Cruz administration will be within the confines foreign policy tradition of the US.
The writer adds “To Cruz’s audience, Kirkpatrick’s credentials as a Reaganite conservative are impeccable. Kirkpatrick’s most famous work is her 1979 Commentary article, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which Cruz cited in his Heritage Foundation speech. It offers a bleak analysis of world affairs and of human nature. It takes issue with the Enlightenment notion that history is heading in the direction of “reason, science, education, and progress,” and chides those naïve Americans, such as Jimmy Carter, who subscribe to the fanciful “doctrine of modernization” that “predicts progress (in the form of modernization for all societies) and a happy ending (in the form of a world community of developed, autonomous nations).” History has no direction, cautions Kirkpatrick, and the United States needs to focus less on perfecting imperfect but reliable allies (as it had disastrously attempted to do with Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran and Anastasio Somoza García of Nicaragua) and more on the global threat posed by communism”.
The author contends that “There are three reasons why Cruz might have identified Kirkpatrick as a lodestar. First, Kirkpatrick, the first woman to ever to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was a significant influence on the foreign policies of President Reagan — particularly in his support for brutal anti-communist military dictatorships in Latin America — and this connection, in the eyes of today’s Republican Party, automatically confers privileged status. For anyone with serious ambitions in either major party, indeed, invoking Reagan’s wisdom is like pinning an American flag badge to your lapel — you do it without a second thought. Second, Kirkpatrick was inspired to write the article by the supposed failings of President Jimmy Carter, whom she lambasted in the article as weak-willed and sanctimonious, which makes for a nice analogical fit — scratch Carter and replace with Obama. The third reason more directly concerns the substance of Kirkpatrick’s views. Cruz seems to believe Kirkpatrick’s clear-eyed realism offers guidance for the troubles facing the United States today. Rather than take morally charged leaps into the unknown (read: the Iraq War or Libyan War), Cruz is suggesting we follow Kirkpatrick’s advice in supporting unpleasant “authoritarian” leaders. With more than a few intellectual contortions, Kirkpatrick’s references to Somoza and the Shah could be scratched and replaced with Bashar al-Assad and Muammar al-Qaddafi”.
The writer goes on to argue “In the sum, the core of Cruz’s message is this: I’m a literate, tough-minded heir to Ronald Reagan and I see the world as it is. But Cruz’s preferred self-image relies on a highly distorted reflection. Begin with the fact that Reagan was highly selective in how he applied Kirkpatrick’s ideas. In Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, the administration supported murderous right-wing, but reliably anti-communist, dictatorships perpetrating awful crimes against their people. (Guatemala’s then leader, Efraín Ríos Montt, is to be retried for genocide in January.) But in the Philippines, Reagan eventually came round to the idea of pressuring the autocratic Ferdinand Marcos to step down from power, repudiating a key element of Kirkpatrick’s thesis. Indeed, Marcos once offered an after-dinner toast to Kirkpatrick that quoted verbatim from “Dictatorships and Double Standards” — for all the good it did him”.
Controversially he writes “Kirkpatrick’s ideas remain far from the mainstream of either political party in the United States. She was a civilisational pessimist who wanted her nation to ruthlessly follow its core interests, not act upon universal values. In this sense, she shared a similarity with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose support for anti-communist strongmen mirrored her own”.
This is simply not true. The Hamiltonian and Jacksonian schools both adhere to an intensely realist view of the world with power and interests key to US actions. Of course that is not to say these are the only schools of the tradition. Others, notably the Wilsonian school can also be incorporated into an administration’s foreign policy with Bush 41, 43 and Clinton all being recent examples of this mix.
The author adds correctly, “Reagan accomplished something in his second term that Kirkpatrick thought impossible: He formed a close working relationship with a Marxist-Leninist who implemented policies — Glasnost and Perestroika — that served to mellow a “radical totalitarian” regime. Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, was the very thing that Kirkpatrick’s theory held as implausible. When Cruz said in his speech, “we could do worse, in my opinion, than adopting the Reagan-Kirkpatrick philosophy today,” he neglected to note the massive gulf that separated the two”.
He ends “After all, Syrians struggling to survive a hellish civil war in which Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State are the principal antagonists do not “learn to cope … in the miserable roles they are destined to fill.” They flee and they die. And contrary to Kirkpatrick’s world-weary claim, places like Syria, whatever else is true about them, most certainly “create refugees.”
“The Islamic State jihadist group executed nine men and a boy it accused of being gay in central and northern Syria on Monday, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadists shot dead seven men in Rastan, a town in Homs province of central Syria, “after accusing them of being homosexual.” IS also executed two men and the boy in the town of Hreitan, in the northern province of Aleppo, for the same reason, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. He said the executions were carried out in public, but that IS fighters destroyed any cameras that had been used to film the killings”.
“Islamic State jihadis have destroyed a 2,000-year-old statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s antiquities director has said. Maamoun Abdelkarim said the statue, known as the Lion of al-Lat, was an irreplaceable piece. “IS members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres [10ft] tall and weighs 15 tonnes,” Abdelkarim told AFP. “It’s the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra’s heritage.” Satellite monitoring is one of a series of steps Unesco’s director general is proposing to tackle damage and destruction that she calls ‘cultural cleansing’ The limestone statue was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archaeological mission at the temple of al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, and dated back to the 1st century BC. Abdelkarim said the statue had been covered with a metal plate and sandbags to protect it from fighting, “but we never imagined that IS would come to the town to destroy it.” Isis captured Palmyra, a Unesco world heritage site, from government forces on 21 May, prompting international concern about the fate of the city’s antiquities. So far the most famous sites have been left intact, though there have been reports that Isis has mined them. Most of the pieces in the city’s museum were evacuated by antiquities staff before Isis arrived. The group has blown up several historic Muslim graves in recent weeks. Some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity face destruction as forces loyal to Assad withdraw to western strongholds. On Thursday the group released photos showing its members in Aleppo destroying several statues from Palmyra they had caught being smuggled through the northern province.
“The Vatican has been dragging its feet on the approval of France’s ambassador to the Holy See, raising suspicions that it has effectively rejected the nomination of Laurent Stéfanini because he is gay. The Vatican declined to comment on speculation about the delay. Stéfanini, a 55-year-old practising Catholic, has been described in the Italian press as an exemplary candidate and a man of “exceptional culture”. He is a senior diplomat and chief of protocol in the French government of François Hollande. His nomination was put forward in January but the Vatican has not responded, usually an indication that the potential ambassador has been rejected. Reports in the French and Italian press suggested the decision was clearly connected to Stéfanini being gay. The controversy could tarnish Pope Francis’s image as being more tolerant than his predecessors over gay rights. When asked by a reporter in 2013 about the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican, he responded: “Who am I to judge?” His words have been interpreted as a sign of some acceptance of gay people in a church that regards homosexual acts as a sin”.
As the 2015 UK general election continues it seems the voters have a stark choice. The Labour Party has said it will abolish the role that allows those that are not domiciled in the UK, and therefore pay no real taxes. The Tories meanwhile have said nothing about the patently immoral rule that benefits only the tiniest portion of the wealthiest.
A report from the Guardian notes “Labour has accused the Tories of deliberately misleading voters by editing an interview with Ed Balls as a row broke out over a pledge by Ed Miliband to abolish the non-domicile tax status for anyone living in Britain for more than three years. The Tories moved to unpick the announcement by the Labour leader by releasing a video of a BBC interview back in January in which the shadow chancellor said that abolishing non-dom status might lead to a fall in tax revenue. But the Tories edited out a crucial final sentence in which Balls told BBC Radio Leeds on 9 January: “But I think we can be tougher and we should be and we will.” Labour seized on the Tory editing of the Balls interview to accuse the Tories of misleading people to defend their refusal to tackle tax avoidance. The shadow chancellor blogged: “The Tories have edited my words from January in an attempt to deliberately mislead people because they can’t defend their own refusal to act on tax avoidance”.
Labour have a point. When the Tories should be agreeing with Labour to abolish this unjust and immoral rule that seeks to have people in London in the hope that their wealth would “trickle down” they in fact are more comfortable to play politics than seek the common good and protect those who do pay taxes and protect the poorest in society.
The report goes on to mention “The row has lit up Britain’s general election campaign after Miliband promised to abolish the non-dom rule, which allows many of Britain’s richest permanent residents to avoid paying tax in the UK on their worldwide income, for those who are based in Britain for more than two to three years. Labour said the rule, introduced by William Pitt the Younger in the late 18th century, has been open to abuse and offends the moral basis of taxation. Everyone who has made the UK their permanent home should pay full UK tax on all their income and gains, Miliband argued”.
The piece adds “George Osborne, conscious of poll findings that the Tories are seen as the party of the rich, realised overnight that he had to tread carefully in response to a Labour plan to crack down on multi-millionaires. Osborne therefore moved to unpick the announcement by saying that Labour was merely planning to tinker with the non-dom tax status on the grounds that the rule would remain in place for beneficiaries who stay in the UK for under two to three years. The Tories then released a video of the shadow chancellor’s January interview in which Balls suggested that abolishing the non-dom rule could lower tax revenues by encouraging some wealthy people to leave the UK. The edited video shows Balls saying: “I think that it is important that you make sure the non-dom rules work in a fair way. I think they were too lax in the past. Both the last Labour government and this Conservative government have tightened them up”.
In an attempt to defend these people who generally do not pay tax and yet use all the services in the UK some have argued that there will be a flight from the UK. However, this argument overlooks the obvious fact that they pay only £90,000 a year, at most, on an income that is millions a year. Whatever “loss” to the coffers of the state would be minimal as so little money is raised anyway. Labour should have launched this policy years ago but all the Tories could do was pick at a few words while avoiding the larger issue.
“The Vatican has responded to public outcry against Pope Francis’ naming of a new bishop in Chile accused of covering up sexual abuse, saying the bishop’s candidature was “carefully examined” prior to his appointment but no “objective reasons” were found to preclude it. Marking a rare reaction to public criticism against a bishop’s appointment, the Vatican press office released a 19-word statement Tuesday in three languages regarding Bishop Juan Barros Madrid. Chilean clergy sexual abuse survivors accuse Barros, who was installed March 21 as head of the diocese of Osorno, Chile, amid protests in the cathedral, of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima when Barros was a priest. Members of Francis’ Vatican commission on clergy sex abuse have also criticized the appointment, saying in NCR interviews last week they are concerned and surprised at the pope’s decision. The Vatican’s statement Tuesday, made by Holy See Press Office Vice Director Passionist Fr. Ciro Benedettini, does not address any specific criticisms”.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a campaign statement Sunday, “There will be no withdrawals” from the occupied West Bank and “no concessions” to the Palestinians, renewing questions about his declared commitment to the two-state solution. The statement issued by Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party came in response to a reporter’s query about whether the prime minister still stood by his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University endorsing the concept of a Palestinian state, and ended, “This thing is simply not relevant.” But after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Mr. Netanyahu had said the Bar-Ilan speech was no longer relevant, his office issued a late-night statement of its own saying, “The prime minister has never stated such a thing.” The apparent contradictions between Mr. Netanyahu’s political and governmental apparatuses came as he is struggling to shore up support in his conservative base and win over voters in West Bank settlements before March 17 elections. It might have been more hairsplitting than actual disagreement: both statements cited the chaotic regional situation and said Israel would not cede territory for fear of takeover by Islamists. Mr. Netanyahu, who is seeking a historic fourth term, was already fending off criticism from politicians further to the right after a report on Fridayb that his special envoy, Isaac Molho, agreed in secret talks with an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in 2013 to negotiate based on the lines that demarcated Israel before the 1967 war. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said that the document revealed in the report, by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, was never agreed to and that in any case it was only an American statement of principles on which Mr. Molho and Mr. Abbas would have been allowed to express reservations, something the American involved in the secret channel, Dennis B. Ross, confirmed”.
An excellent article reports on the problems in German bankers.
It starts, “Why did Germany try so hard to stop the European Central Bank from giving the eurozone a trillion-euro boost? Why did Germany decree fiscal austerity for Greece instead? And why, despite Greece’s travails and alleged duplicity, does Germany insist that Greece stay in the eurozone? These actions may have seemed irrational and contradictory, but the same people benefited in every case. First, consider Germany’s recent economic history. In 1990, the reunification of the East and West added an enormous, low-wage population of Germans to the labour supply. Though integrating them into the West’s business environment took time, these millions of new laborers in the workforce instantly made German exports more competitive. Then, with the launch of the euro in 1999, Germany diluted its currency — among the strongest in the world — by mingling it with those of less stable economies from across the European Union. Again, the effect was a huge boost to German exports”.
He adds “Indeed, in the first decade, incomes for Germans from top to bottom on the economic ladder rose by about 7 to 8 percent in real terms. But with the advent of the euro, things started to change. Incomes at the top kept rising, with gains for the top 10 percent of earners continuing apace for the next decade as shareholders reaped record profits. At the bottom, however, there was a sharp dip that eventually left incomes exactly where they started at the beginning of the 1990s”.
Of course, as is often the case, the poorest are hit most, “The effect on inequality was startling. By itself, the integration of East and West should have reduced German inequality substantially. In a country where labor retained some bargaining power, the export boom might have been expected to encourage this convergence as well. Yet Germans at the top of the income distribution saw such an upturn in their fortunes that inequality actually rose. With incomes continuing to diverge, Germany’s wealth inequality was the worst in the eurozone and almost on a par with that of the United States, which was no mean feat”.
He argues that QE was opposed by bankers and others in the ECB, “Instead, they decided that countries in need of an economic lifeline — like Greece — should keep making massive cuts in public services while servicing debts on terms set by wealthier nations such as Germany. For most economists, this was an impractical prescription that would only make the patient suffer more. So why did the Germans insist on it? The bankers in Berlin realised that inflation eroded the value of savings, of which their wealthy countrymen had quite a lot, and also made German investments less attractive to foreigners. As long as Germany continued to grow, they had no use for inflation. In fact, growth with low inflation — and thus little upward pressure on wages — was a perfect formula, especially for owners of capital. Indebted and unemployed Germans might have benefited from a weaker euro and more inflation, just like the Greeks, but they clearly weren’t the bankers’ top priority”.
Thankfully he notes that “Greece is calling Germany’s bluff. A few years ago, the Germans wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone enough to bail them out of their fiscal deficits, but the cost was penury for the Greeks. Back then, Germany seemed to have all the bargaining power. But Greece’s new leftist government has apparently realized that the real bargaining power lies in Athens, because Germany will now do anything to hold the eurozone together. Germans have read plenty of articles alleging that Athens never should have been allowed to join the eurozone in the first place. But the bankers in Berlin know that each weak country that leaves the eurozone now is likely to push up the value of the euro”.
He concludes “Today, this cluster of threats is unacceptable to Germany. As its growth rate slowed, so did its bankers’ priorities and, as a consequence, the balance of power in the eurozone. The Greeks figured this out, and other countries are cottoning on. But it was a good run for wealthy Germans while it lasted”.
“The Islamic State militant group has killed 1,878 people in Syria during the past six months, the majority of them civilians, a British-based Syrian monitoring organization said on Sunday. Islamic State also killed 120 of its own members, most of them foreign fighters trying to return home, in the last two months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The militant group has taken vast parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in territory under its control in June. Since then it has fought the Syrian and Iraqi governments, other insurgents and Kurdish forces. Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian monitoring group, told Reuters that Islamic State killed 1,175 civilians, including eight women and four children”.
“First the Pakistani Taliban bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls’ rights. But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low with an assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people — 132 of them uniformed schoolchildren — in the deadliest single attack in the group’s history. During an eight-hour rampage at the Army Public School and Degree College, a team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed through the corridors and assembly hall, firing at random and throwing grenades. Some of the 1,100 students at the school were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their desks, or forced to watch as their teachers were riddled with bullets. Their parents crowded around the school gates, praying their children would survive while listening to the explosions and gunfire as Pakistani commandos stormed the building”.
A post discusess where the new welcoming language in the Synod emerged from. It opens, “It’s one of the great mysteries of the meeting on family life taking place behind closed doors at the Vatican this week: Just where did the authors of a draft report come up with such ground-breaking language that gays had gifts to offer the church, and that even same-sex partnerships had merit? Officially speaking, the draft report was a synthesis of the interventions from more than 200 bishops, a starting point for small working groups to propose amendments, elaborations, additions, and subtractions to the drafting committee preparing a final report that will be released on Saturday. But conservative cardinals have said their views were not reflected in the draft. They blasted the report as “unacceptable” and said it was in sore need of an overhaul”.
It notes “Cardinal Timothy Dolan said his fellow American, hardline Cardinal Raymond Burke, reflected the view of “a good number of people in saying, boy, this document is a rough draft, does it ever need major revisions.” “I think he’s right, he’s picked up on the side that a lot of bishops, and I would include myself, feel that it needs some major reworking,” Dolan told “CBS This Morning.” The most contentious passage is contained in three paragraphs of the 58-paragraph report under the heading “Welcoming homosexuals.” It starts off by saying gays “have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.””
Ironically, these words are minor in comparison in comparison to what is in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church where gays can supposedly reach perfection if they follow the legalistic teachings of the Church.
The piece adds “There was no reference to Catholic doctrine that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered,” sinful, or that gay orientation was “objectively disordered.” Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, the main author of the report or “relator,” defended the document, but acknowledged problems and said there was ample room for improvement. He told Vatican Radio that the 16 officials who drafted it struggled to synthesize the positions of 30-40 bishops on any given topic and rushed to finish it on time. He acknowledged that there may have been instances when the report said “many” bishops had proposed a certain position when only “some” had. But he said the final paper would provide “greater clarity, that doesn’t leave any doubt in any chapter because the faithful need a clear voice, an encouragement and an instruction.” Erdo has already named the official who wrote the section on gays, Monsignor Bruno Forte, appointed by Pope Francis as the special secretary to the synod. Forte is an Italian theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on dealing with people in “irregular” unions while staying true to Catholic doctrine”.
Importantly he makes the point that “Forte and all the members of the drafting committee had access to far more material than the bishops themselves since they had the lengthy written speeches each synod “father” submitted prior to the meeting. Those written speeches factored into the draft report, even if the bishops didn’t utter them during the four minutes each was allowed to speak. In fact, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he recalled only one speech out of about 265 about gays during the debate. So it’s not surprising that bishops didn’t recognise everything in the draft report since these written submissions weren’t made public or distributed to the bishops themselves, and the oral presentations only reflected a summary or particular point that a bishop wanted to make. But at the same time, there is no real way to know which bishop or bishops had proposed such ground-breaking language or whether it was more a reflection of Forte’s view”.
He ends “As it is, he appointed a half-dozen perceived progressives to the final drafting committee after bishops themselves elected conservatives to head the working groups. These working groups will make proposed amendments, but in the end, it’s up to the drafting committee to write the final document that the bishops will vote to accept or not. None of Francis’ appointees are Africans, who are among the most conservative on family issues”.
John Allen writes, “All of a sudden at the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, “gradualism” as a concept in both Catholic moral theology and pastoral practice, which not so long ago seemed on the verge of being stricken from the official lexicon, is back with a vengeance. There have been multiple references so far to the “law of graduality,” more commonly referred to by theologians over the years as “gradualism.” Its apparent popularity may offer a clue to how things are evolving in the keenly watched debate over divorced and remarried Catholics, but understanding why requires a bit of background. At one level, gradualism is no more than the common sense observation that virtues such as honesty and courage aren’t all-or-nothing propositions, and that people move towards them through stages and at different speeds. It implies that just because someone’s current situation falls short of perfection doesn’t mean it has no moral value, and it’s often better to encourage the positive elements in someone’s life rather than to chastise their flaws. It was probably that sense of gradualism Pope Benedict XVI had in mind in 2010 when he said in an interview with a German journalist that if a male prostitute uses a condom to try to avoid infecting people with HIV/AIDS, it can be “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” Benedict wasn’t repealing the church’s opposition to condom use, but he was saying that there are times when it suggests a concern for others which, in itself, is laudable. Where gradualism becomes more of a bone of contention is when it’s invoked to justify a permissive approach to moral rules”.
Allen goes on to write “For instance, some theologians and even a few bishops over the years have invoked gradualism to defend going easy on Catholics who practice birth control, arguing that while the teaching of Pope Paul VI in 1968’s Humanae Vitae reaffirming the traditional ban represents an ideal, there may be valid reasons why lots of people can’t be expected to fully embrace it right now. For those concerned with defending tradition, this second sense of gradualism can make it sound like another word for “relativism”, meaning watering down objective standards of morality. By the same token, it also makes gradualism a favorite refuge for moderates who accept the content of Church teaching, but who don’t want to go to war over it”.
Allen with his usual excellent insight writes “The last time the Vatican staged a Synod of Bishops on the family, which was almost 35 years ago in 1980, talk about gradualism was in the air, too. Pope John Paul II was sufficiently concerned about where it might lead that he included a warning in a homily he gave for the closing Mass of the synod, a line he then also dropped into the meeting’s concluding document, Familiaris Consortio. “What is known as ‘the law of gradualness’,” John Paul said, “cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law’.” The gist was there’s just one set of rules for everybody, and they’re not going to change. Since that time, the Vatican has occasionally circled back to the theme. When the Pontifical Council for the Family put out a guide for priests hearing confessions on matters having to do with married life in 1997, it warned that the “law of graduality” shouldn’t induce priests to send the signal that sin isn’t still sin”.
Interestingly Allen makes the point that “In his opening address on Monday, Cardinal Péter Erdő of Hungary argued that Humanae Vitae should be read in light of graduality. In a session with reporters at Vatican Radio Monday night, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich invoked graduality as a key to helping the church develop a new way of talking about sex. In a briefing session for reporters on Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman described graduality as among the synod’s emerging themes”.
The key point Allen adds is that “Here’s why the vocabulary matters: Everyone knows that the hottest issue at this synod is the question of whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics ought to be able to receive Communion. Moderates supporting that change need to find a way to justify it that doesn’t seem to call into question the principle that marriage is for life. “The law of graduality” could be one way of doing the trick, and thus references to it could be understood as an early show of strength for the moderate position. It’s also perhaps an index of how things have changed under Pope Francis that bishops feel licensed to use the phrase without a truckload of qualifications, given the increasingly disapproving tone of most Vatican statements on it in the recent past. In other words, the sudden return of gradualism may be a central part of the storyline about the 2014 synod”.
The most interesting coverage comes from a piece in The Guardian. It begins, “It was during the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005 that the campaign for his canonisation began. “Santo subito!” said Italian posters held up in the crowd. “Make him a saint straightaway!” Investigations into his cause have continued ever since and now, six years on, the veteran Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornelli has suggested that an alleged miracle linked to the intervention of the Polish pope has been confirmed as true by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Tornielli, writing in the Milan paper Il Giornale, says that the congregation’s medical panel has accepted that a French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease was caused by John Paul’s intercession. The miracle now has to be approved by a commission of bishops and cardinals before John Paul could be first beatified and then canonised. There’s always been unseemly haste about the canonisation of John Paul II. The church usually has a five-year “cooling-off” period following someone’s death before they can be considered for sainthood – a sensible approach, given the emotions that surround someone’s passing – but Pope Benedict waived this in the case of his predecessor”.
She goes on to make the point that “Might he now rue the day? While John Paul’s place in history is assured, given his role in the fall of communism, his remarkable efforts to improve the relationship between the Catholic church and Jews, his globetrotting showmanship and his ability to say sorry for past papal mistakes, there is one particular giant blot on his papacy which casts doubt for many, including Catholics, on his holiness: his relationship with Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legion of Christ movement for priests and its lay organisation Regnum Christi. Maciel’s work, which included founding many schools, universities and seminaries, brought him into constant contact with young people. His conservative approach to church teaching, his flair for both recruiting young men to the priesthood and the wealthy to become donors to the church made him particularly appealing to John Paul and others around him at the heart of the Vatican. For years there were allegations about his sexual abuse of young people. But Maciel retained a powerful position at the heart of the Catholic church, accompanying John Paul to visits to visits to Mexico on three occasions and being asked to join influential committees”.
She ends, “By 2004, Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner had exposed his double life in their book and documentary Vows of Silence. The following year, Maciel stood down from running the Legionaries, and just days before the death of John Paul, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was speaking of the “filth in the church”, widely interpreted as meaning child abusers in general and quite possibly Maciel in particular. It took Ratzinger just a year following his election as Pope Benedict XVI to discipline Maciel and invite him to a life of penitence and prayer”.
Indeed, this is part of the reason why the Church has not advanced the cause of Pius IX, despite some laughable objections.
She concludes rightly, “This is the darkest chapter in the paedophilia scandal. But it’s more than that: it’s also a story of how money can gain you access and power in the church, and how fear of scandal continues to be one of the strongest sentiments in Rome, leading to cover-up. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has spoken of the then Cardinal Ratzinger struggling against the odds to tackle child abuse. Nothing speaks more loudly than how he was blocked by other powerful Vatican figures than the way he moved against Maciel as soon as he was in charge. The Maciel saga is a distasteful backdrop to a canonisation that could well become another Vatican PR own goal”.
Christian Caryl who has written somewhat correctly about Pope Francis recently, has a new article about what blowhard Rush Limbaugh has said about Francis who has in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation warned about how many people view capitalism.
Caryl writes that “In his text he assails the problem of inequality, asks that we pay greater attention to the needs of the poor, and attacks the idea that the urge to accumulate wealth is an end unto itself. Sure, the bible has a lot of harsh things to say about the wanton rich”.
Caryl add “Nowhere in the document does he mention specific policies to counter these problems. He doesn’t call for increased taxation of the rich. (The word “tax” occurs only once in the document, in a passage that criticises tax evasion and corruption.) He doesn’t sing the praises of collectivism. He doesn’t attack the principle of private property, nor does he advocate public ownership of the means of production. It’s worth noting that this pope has a long track record of opposing liberation theologists in his homeland of Argentina. Still, I guess it’s theoretically possible that the pope really is a closet Maoist”.
Caryl is correct, Francis does not advocate for collectivism or attacking property. However what Caryl misses is that the reason he does not “mention specific policies” is that because this is primarly a religious document and not an economic article. The Church is not a political organisation but it does seek the common good and reserves the right to have its voice heard on matters where there is a spiritual dimension – the worship of money being the obvious example.
He makes the correct point when he writes “The conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, America’s premier political entertainer, was keen to pile on (though not quite so ingenious in his arguments). He was especially upset by this part of the pope’s critique: “The culture of prosperity deadens us. We are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle. They fail to move us.” This sounds pretty keenly observed to me. But Limbaugh just couldn’t bear it: “That’s going way beyond matters that are ethical,” he spluttered. “This is almost a statement about who should control financial markets. He says that the global economy needs government control.” Well, no. Actually, Francis doesn’t say anything of the kind. Instead he’s exhorting us (a pronoun that expressly includes politicians and world leaders) to look closely at our own behavior and its consequences. That’s precisely why his text is an “exhortation,” a rumination on issues of justice and charity, not a white paper from some Washington think tank”.
Finally Caryl rightly laughs at Limbaugh, “For Limbaugh, though, it’s a clear case: Pope Francis is a ‘Marxist.’ Just for good measure, he draws a stark contrast between Francis and Pope John Paul II, who stared down the Soviet Union and made a signal contribution to the collapse of communism. John Paul II, in this reading, was the ultimate Cold Warrior, a man at the opposite end of the spectrum from this sentimental, pinko Francis. Except that he wasn’t. Here’s a sample from John Paul II’s own writings in 1991. ‘The Marxist solution has failed,’ he noted. And yet, he continued: ‘Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems'”
He concludes, “Francis, in short, isn’t saying that capitalism is inherently bad. What he’s saying is that we shouldn’t fetishize it. We shouldn’t treat it as if it’s beyond reproach, something that we can’t even dare to change”.
“Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must ‘repent’ over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue. Archbishop Welby, who as a young priest once opposed allowing gay couples to adopt children, said the church now had to face up to what amounted to one of the most rapid changes in public attitudes ever. While insisting that he did not regret voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, he admitted that his own mind was not yet ‘clear’ on the wider issues which he was continuing to think about. And he admitted that, despite its strong official opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Church is still ‘deeply and profoundly divided’ over gay marriage”.
“A series of bomb attacks killed at least 22 people across Iraq on Monday, part of the country’s worst wave of violence in around five years. At least 16 people died and 41 others were injured when a suicide bomber targeted a crowded cafe in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. Two roadside bombs – one planted near a playground and another near a school – also killed six people and wounded dozens, some of them children, in the town of Muqdadiya, 50 miles northeast of the capital. Those blasts underlined a shift in tactics by suspected Islamist militants, who are increasingly targeting not only military checkpoints and marketplaces, but also cafes and recreational areas used by families and children”.
“For years, Assange has been dogged by allegations that he never cared if his WikiLeaks disclosures endangered the lives of innocent civilians. ‘If they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them,’ Assange allegedly said, according to the Guardian‘s investigative journalist David Leigh. ‘They deserve it.’ But Assange has always denied saying this, and has insisted that thousands of WikiLeaks files were carefully redacted out of concern for innocent people exposed by the cables. ‘We don’t want innocent people who have a decent chance of being hurt to be hurt,’ he told PBS. But now, in his new book, Schmidt says Assange never wanted to redact the cables — and only did so for monetary reasons”.
Michael Klare has written a piece in Foreign Affairs. He argues that US involvement in Asia will mean more tension, not less.
He opens the piece “When U.S. officials are asked to comment on disputes over contested islands in the western Pacific, they invariably affirm that the Obama administration has no position on issues of sovereignty but opposes any use of force to resolve the matter. ‘Whether with regard to disputes in the South China Sea or in the East China Sea,’ Deputy Secretary of State William Burns declared last October in Tokyo, the United States ‘does not take a position on the question of ultimate sovereignty.’ True to form, he continued, ‘What we do take a position on is the importance of dealing with those questions through dialogue and diplomacy and avoiding intimidation and coercion.’ In this and other such statements, the United States projects an aura of neutrality — even suggesting, on occasion, that the country could serve as a good-faith mediator between disputants. But Washington’s stance is less neutral than it appears and more geared toward violent conflict than talking it out”.
Yet, Klare’s point is only seems to be valid from the Chinese side, but otherwise America is just doing what it has always done, being engaged in the region and at the same time, taking an expansive view of its national interests. He goes on to briefly explain the reason behind the dispute between Japan and China, “In the East China Sea, China and Japan are squabbling over a cluster of small, uninhabited islands called the Diaoyu by the Chinese and the Senkaku by the Japanese”.
Klare then goes on to write “Little more than rock formations, the islands possess hardly any value in and of themselves. But they are believed to sit astride vast undersea reserves of oil and natural gas — lucrative caches for whichever country can get to them. Beyond the economic boon it would be, the Chinese view acquisition of the islands (along with the recovery of Taiwan) as the final dismantling of the imperial yoke of Western powers and Japan. The other claimants, meanwhile, see retaining control of the islands as a necessary act of defiance in the face of China’s growing power and assertiveness”. Yet while this point is broadly true he underestimates the problems that Chinese “assertiveness” has caused, heightening tensions and increasing enmity between China and the most of the rest of Asia. So to say that China is assertive is putting it mildly.
He then mentions that “The United States’ own interests in the islands are varied. To begin with, the U.S. Navy has long dominated this maritime region, which is a vital thoroughfare for U.S. warships heading from the Pacific to the Middle East. The United States is also obligated by treaty to defend Japan and its maritime lifelines. Hence, ‘freedom of navigation’ in the East and South China Seas is an avowed U.S. national security priority. The growing involvement of U.S. energy companies in the extraction of oil and natural gas from the South China Sea has added another layer to the United States’ strategy. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy, major firms such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil have partnered with the state-owned oil companies of Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines to develop promising reserves in maritime territories claimed by these countries as well as China. In October 2011, for example, Exxon announced a major gas find in waters claimed by Vietnam that are also said to be part of China’s own maritime territory”.
Again Klare’s point is valid and undoubtedly true but only half the picture. He does not mention that fact the Taiwan issue and America’s successful “dual deterrence” strategy on which the Taiwanese depends for their security. He also omits, or forgets to mention the fact that many countries in Asia are US allies and need an engagement America in the region to balance against China when it wants to deal with them individually so the Chinese can use their leverage over them. Instead Asia, or at least most of it, is rushing into the arms of the American led order (and security guarantees). So certainly the United States certainly has interests, only a fool would say otherwise, but it also have values that are inextricably linked to those interests, such as the support for democracy and free speech. Neither of which are available in China.
He goes on to write “In 2011, with U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama began to address the perceived decline in America’s regional power position. Claiming that the Asia-Pacific region had become the new center of global economic dynamism, Obama set out to restore military dominance there. This meant, first and foremost, the reinforcement of U.S. forces in the Pacific, especially the Navy, which is slated to deploy 60 percent of its combat strength in the region (as compared to 50 percent at present); but, as Obama explained, it also entailed the reinvigoration of military ties with U.S. allies in the region, especially Japan and the Philippines. Although Obama has insisted that this so-called pivot to Asia was not intended to punish or contain China, it is hard to view it as anything else”. This is one half of US strategy, realism and idealism. Indeed, in the administration have said that China should pose no threat to America if they act responsibly. Instead however, the Chinese have bullied their neighbours and attacked America through cyber terrorism.
He adds “while continuing to profess neutrality, senior officials have expressed dismay over the aggressive actions taken by certain unnamed claimants — easily interpreted as meaning China”.
Yet while his point that America at the same time professes neutrality and expands into Asia is valid to be surprised at this is even more odd. It is the way the international world works because it is the way man works. In an ideal world there would be no hypocrisy. It is obviously not an ideal world. To then say that America makes things worse because of these seems bizarre, to say the least.
The major article in the most recent Foreign Affairs entitled “Capitalism and Inequality” argues that “Recent political debate in the United States and other advanced capitalist democracies has been dominated by two issues: the rise of economic inequality and the scale of government intervention to address it. As the 2012 U.S. presidential election and the battles over the ‘fiscal cliff’ have demonstrated, the central focus of the left today is on increasing government taxing and spending, primarily to reverse the growing stratification of society, whereas the central focus of the right is on decreasing taxing and spending, primarily to ensure economic dynamism. Each side minimizes the concerns of the other, and each seems to believe that its desired policies are sufficient to ensure prosperity and social stability. Both are wrong”.
It goes to say “Inequality is indeed increasing almost everywhere in the postindustrial capitalist world. But despite what many on the left think, this is not the result of politics, nor is politics likely to reverse it, for the problem is more deeply rooted and intractable than generally recognized. Inequality is an inevitable product of capitalist activity, and expanding equality of opportunity only increases it”. While he is correct in the sense that inequality is rising, with both the bottom and middle suffering the most with the very wealthiest losing least, or in many cases, actually gaining. It would be wrong to say that the only reason for this was capitalism but the kind of capitalism that has been worshipped over the last 20 years, or maybe more, has greatly worsened the level of inequality in many societies. This change in capitalism has itself come about with as a result of the changing nature of the economy and the work that more people are doing. It is far more skilled, even at low levels than it was previously which in turn has meant greater emphasis on education. Yet while many more than ever before have gained university degrees the wealthiest have gone further still thereby enhancing their advantage. There is nothing wrong with parents doing this for their children but there must then be a counter balance to this in order to mitigate and lessen this effect.
He goes on to write “Despite what many on the right think, however, this is a problem for everybody, not just those who are doing poorly or those who are ideologically committed to egalitarianism — because if left unaddressed, rising inequality and economic insecurity can erode social order and generate a populist backlash against the capitalist system at large”. He rightly praises capitalism for raising living standards and reducing poverty but goes on to warn “Capitalism’s intrinsic dynamism, however, produces insecurity along with benefits, and so its advance has always met resistance. Much of the political and institutional history of capitalist societies, in fact, has been the record of attempts to ease or cushion that insecurity, and it was only the creation of the modern welfare state in the middle of the twentieth century that finally enabled capitalism and democracy to coexist in relative harmony”.
He goes on to state rather controversially “If capitalism has opened up ever more opportunities for the development of human potential, however, not everyone has been able to take full advantage of those opportunities or progress far once they have done so. Formal or informal barriers to equality of opportunity, for example, have historically blocked various sectors of the population — such as women, minorities, and the poor — from benefiting fully from all capitalism offers. But over time, in the advanced capitalist world, those barriers have gradually been lowered or removed, so that now opportunity is more equally available than ever before. The inequality that exists today, therefore, derives less from the unequal availability of opportunity than it does from the unequal ability to exploit opportunity”.
He adds “All this progress, however, has been shadowed by capitalism’s perennial features of inequality and insecurity. In 1973, the sociologist Daniel Bell noted that in the advanced capitalist world, knowledge, science, and technology were driving a transformation to what he termed “postindustrial society.” Just as manufacturing had previously displaced agriculture as the major source of employment, he argued, so the service sector was now displacing manufacturing”.
He rightly goes on to mention the role of the family in society and its subesquent economic effects, “In the United States, among the most striking developments of recent decades has been the stratification of marriage patterns among the various classes and ethnic groups of society. When divorce laws were loosened in the 1960s, there was a rise in divorce rates among all classes. But by the 1980s, a new pattern had emerged: divorce declined among the more educated portions of the populace, while rates among the less-educated portions continued to rise. In addition, the more educated and more well-to-do were more likely to wed, while the less educated were less likely to do so. Given the family’s role as an incubator of human capital, such trends have had important spillover effects on inequality. Abundant research shows that children raised by two parents in an ongoing union are more likely to develop the self-discipline and self-confidence that make for success in life”.
He goes on to argue that education is not necessarily the answer “even though a higher percentage of Americans are attending college, they are not necessarily learning more. An increasing number are unqualified for college-level work, many leave without completing their degrees, and others receive degrees reflecting standards much lower than what a college degree has usually been understood to mean”, he adds “formal schooling itself plays a relatively minor role in creating or perpetuating achievement gaps”.
The answer to this he says is not greater redistribtuion which he argues “has two drawbacks, however. The first is that over time, the very forces that lead to greater inequality reassert themselves, requiring still more, or more aggressive, redistribution. The second is that at some point, redistribution produces substantial resentment and impedes the drivers of economic growth. Some degree of postmarket redistribution through taxation is both possible and necessary, but just how much is ideal will inevitably be contested”.
Whatever about his idea that greater redistribution will mean more redistrubition the second point that it “impedes the drivers of economic growth” is laughable.
The second solution which he also rejects is “using government policy to close the gaps between individuals and groups by offering preferential treatment to underperformers, may be worse than the disease. Whatever their purported benefits, mandated rewards to certain categories of citizens inevitably create a sense of injustice among the rest of the population. More grave is their cost in terms of economic efficiency”. Again this logic is questionable, to say the least.
The recommended cure for capitalism, he says, is more capitalism, “encouraging continued economic innovation that will benefit everybody, is more promising. The combination of the Internet and computational revolutions may prove comparable to the coming of electricity, which facilitated an almost unimaginable range of other activities that transformed society at large in unpredictable ways. Among other gains, the Internet has radically increased the velocity of knowledge, a key factor in capitalist economic growth since at least the eighteenth century. Add to that the prospects of other fields still in their infancy, such as biotechnology, bioinformatics, and nanotechnology, and the prospects for future economic growth and the ongoing improvement of human life look reasonably bright. Nevertheless, even continued innovation and revived economic growth will not eliminate or even significantly reduce socioeconomic inequality and insecurity, because individual, family, and group differences will still affect the development of human capital and professional accomplishment”.
As the last week of of the reign of Pope Benedict XVI ticks away and the electors are moving their minds as to who will be the next pope some cardinals should not attend the conclave at all.
An article mentions that several cardinals are totally discredited, it notes “Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has become the latest cardinal to be questioned over his handling of sex abuse by priests and victims”. The piece goes on to add “several are embroiled in controversies connected to the Church’s systemic failure to tackle sex abuse against children by paedophile priests. The question marks over the cardinals’ management of sex abuse cases are an embarrassment for the Holy See, just as Benedict prepares to resign the papacy next Thursday. Timothy Dolan, the charismatic archbishop of New York, who is considered to have a chance of being elected Benedict XVI’s successor, was formally questioned about abusive priests in his former archdiocese of Milwaukee, just days before his departure for Rome to take part in the conclave”.
The article goes on to note “Cardinal Dolan is the second American cardinal this week to be scrutinised over his role in the sex abuse scandals, which erupted in the United States in 2002. Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is due to be questioned on Saturday in a lawsuit over a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in the 1980s. Catholic groups in the US and Italy have called for Cardinal Mahony to be barred from the conclave, but he insists he will attend despite allegations that he shielded predatory priests”.
The piece goes on to mention Cardinal Brady, the archbishop of Armagh and his role in protecting priests who he knew were abusing children. The article adds later that Cardinal Danneels “had computer files seized at his home in 2010 over suspicions that he helped cover up hundreds of abuse cases. Justin Rigali, another American cardinal, retired as archbishop of Philadelphia in disgrace after a grand jury accused him of failing to do enough to tackle abusive priests”.
Indeed it was Cardinal Rigali who having been through a grand jury investigation in 2005 promised to clean up his diocese but a second grand jury report was equally damning of Rigali and his total failure to act.
It is clear that these men should absent themselves from the conclave so as not to cast a stain on a new papacy by guilt of association.
Sean Cardinal Brady, the untrustworthy and sinful archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland has finally had his request for a coadjutor archbishop met. Cardinal Brady, who originally requested assistance in 2010 at the height of the crisis in his “leadership”, finally had his request granted.
Yesterday Pope Benedict announced that Msgr Eamon Martin, 51, the diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Derry would become Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh. Thus, as soon as Cardinal Brady turns 75, in August 2014, his resignation will be accepted and Archbishop Martin will take over.
Rocco notes that Msgr Martin is “Set to be the native ‘frontman’ for Rome’s intended reconstitution” of the Church in Ireland. However, as has been mentioned here before if Rome really wanted to appoint someone with real credibility the only bishop with real trust is Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland. Archbishop Martin of Dublin, 67, has consistently dragged his fellow Irish bishops into dealing properly with the crisis, that they, themselves created through their desire to protect the institution at all costs even though it meant destroying the lives of hundreds of children who were meant to be in their care.
It would be foolish however to think of Rome as a monoculture. Though it is impossible to know for sure, Archbishop Martin’s name must surely have been mentioned for the role in the meetings of the Congregation for Bishops. Yet, it is well known that some of the older prelates in the Roman Curia dislike Archbishop Martin’s forthrightness and actions during his time in Dublin thus far.
Earlier reports of someone from outside of Ireland getting the role quickly faded. Rocco goes on to mention “As a more modern sign of his clout, the Primate – almost invariably the holder of Ireland’s seat in the College of Cardinals for the last century and a half – serves ex officio as president of the Isle’s joint episcopal conference, whose operations Eamon Martin oversaw as general secretary from 2008 until returning to his home-diocese in 2010 as vicar-general”. Thus, the newly appointed Coadjutor Archbishop-elect Martin will become a cardinal, if present traditions hold, sometime around 2019 by which time he will be 58 or 59. Of course, Pope Benedict could expedite the process and give him the red earlier, though this would mean Ireland having two electors in a potential conclave, which is unlikely.
One of redeeming features is the young archbishop’s interest in sacred music which bodes will for the direction of the liturgy in the diocese. Rocco mentions that “two of the 26 dioceses stand vacant, with another three bishops serving well past the retirement age of 75″. Ireland is still waiting for the report from the Congregation for Bishops on which dioceses to suppress and merge for the small island of 4.5 million Catholics with 26 dioceses, as many as Germany. In the last few months Benedict named William Crean as bishop of Cloyne and more recently still, Brendan Leahy as bishop of Limerick.
It seems utterly bizarre to name bishops to dioceses that could be suppressed in a few months, or years. Admittedly, the bishops of Elphin, Kerry and Ardagh should all be retired and their dioceses dissolved altogether.
Rocco concludes the report, “Brady’s standing has come under heavy fire and loud calls for his departure amid revelations of his role in the Irish church’s long, brutal history of sexual abuse by clergy and religious, and the subsequent neglect of allegations by church officials”.
He ends noting Archbishop Martin of Dublin’s comments in July 2011 calling elements of the Vatican a “cabal” when it comes to child protection measures.
Two recent articles have appeared in “the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg both published exposés on the intersections between business and politics in the Chinese government” at the heart of which are the sons and daughters of high Chinese “communist”officials.
A summary has distilled the long articles and notes the main points with the greed and corruption clear for almost all to see. The piece mentions, “Bloomberg ‘traced the fortunes of 103 people, the Immortals’ direct descendants and their spouses’ and found that ‘twenty-six of the heirs ran or held top positions in state-owned companies that dominate the economy.’ Three princelings alone ‘headed or still run state-owned companies with combined assets of about $1.6 trillion in 2011′”. This was seen most vividly again when the close relations of Premier Wen Jibao had a multi-billion dollar business empire. The summary also notes “This includes the family of current chairman of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who’s extended family ‘amassed a fortune, including investments in companies with total assets of $376 million and Hong Kong real estate worth $55.6 million'”.
The article goes on to mention how business people are moving into politics, all within CCP control, of course as the piece summarises, “The Journal found that among the wealthiest people in China, those that ‘served in the legislature increased their wealth more quickly than the average member of the list. Seventy-five people who appeared on the rich list from 2007 to 2012 served in China’s legislature during that period. Their fortunes grew by 81 percent, on average, during that period, according to Hurun [a consultancy that tracks China’s wealthiest people]. The 324 list members with no national political positions over that period saw their wealth grow by 47 percent, on average, according to an analysis the firm ran for the Journal.'”
They note that this news is not news and has been known widely for some time, yet “there seems to be a consensus in the United States that China deserves to be understood. Ever since Bo’s downfall, Chinese with high level political access seem to be more open to speaking with foreign media. And Bloomberg, the multi-billion dollar behemoth with probably the world’s best financial databases, has been doing an excellent job of sending its reporters to follow the money”.
The piece ends controversially, “The increase in corruption/dissatisfaction with the princely class means that Chinese will continue to work/fight within the system to improve their lot/improve the system. This does not mean that they are planning to take the streets”. However it would be naive to think that just because the breaking point has not been reached that one does not exist. The spark could be anything but all it needs is a spark.